’08 Or Bust: Energy and Climate


So far, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Barack Obama have returned Global Solutions Candidate Questionnaires. Much of what they have to say is predictable, but there are a lot of important differences in rhetoric and even some key differences in substance. They’re worth a read through.
Given all that’s going on in Bali, it’s worth taking a closer look at what each of these candidates have to say about energy and climate. It’s worth noting that all of their policies are leaps and bounds better than the status quo.

All of these candidates agree that something on the order of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is crucial. All of them also agree that negotiating a strong climate agreement to take hold after 2012 will be a priority, with Hillary Clinton going as far as to promise personal engagement to make it happen. Interestingly, despite explicitly being asked, none of the candidates offered a plan to deal with the impediment that access to energy presents to poverty eradication in the world’s poorest countries.
But there are some important differences. Obama’s domestic energy policy focuses mostly on the transportation sector.
Bill Richardson, whose energy policies I have praised before, seems to still have the strongest grasp of the issue. On top of aggressive moves in the transportation and electrical sectors, Richardson mentions the importance of working with developing countries and International Financial Institutions to help developing countries switch to clean energy. He also proposes a North American Energy Council to shore up our energy trade with our neighbors and a multilateral arrangement to maintain security in the Persian Gulf (presumably instead of U.S. forces). These are good ideas that push back against the mirage of “energy independence.”
Unfortunately, John Edwards falls into the “energy independence” trap. Edwards suggests that we can somehow solve part of the energy puzzle by cutting off oil imports from “hostile countries” instead of trying to kick the oil habit altogether. He also puts a lot of faith in geological carbon sequestration (storing CO2 underground), while ignoring other more promising and safe technological fixes. However, it should be noted that Edwards was the first candidate to jump out of the gate on climate and capitalize on the grassroots enthusiasm for forward-looking energy solutions, and that’s got to count for something.
I mentioned one thing that sets Clinton apart from the pack, and that is a promise to personally engage to get an international climate treaty done right (though others may be willing to do so too). The other distinguishing feature of her policy is a proposal to set up an “E-8,” a permanent forum for major carbon emitting nations to discuss progress on the climate front. Good idea, so long as it doesn’t distract from the UNFCCC process as President Bush’s major economies summit has done.
Check out the Candidate Questionnaires for more info: Clinton / Edwards / Obama / Richardson. And tell the candidate you support to fill out a CQ.
— Scott Paul


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